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Victory shows Hogs’ confidence is growing

by Wally Hall | January 22, 2023 at 2:55 a.m.

It appeared the Arkansas Razorbacks turned the corner.

In fact, it looked like they were sprinting down a newly-paved road against Ole Miss, leading 63-42 with 6:16 to play before letting up on defense a bit and finishing with a 69-57 win that was punctuated by Anthony Black's dunk with six seconds to play.

Ole Miss didn't give up, but inside a minute and down 10 they didn't foul which would have only slowed the game down. Although if there was a single part of the Razorbacks game that needed work Saturday, it was free throws. They made 9 of 17.

Mostly, though, they had one of their best performances of the season and definitely their best in SEC play as they snapped a four-game losing streak, all conference games, and left the Rebels alone in the cellar.

Their defense, especially in the second half, was close to what Eric Musselman expects.

After Jordan Walsh hit his second three-pointer to put the Hogs up by 21, the Rebels went on a 11-1 run. Consider that for the vast majority of the second half, Ole Miss had more turnovers than field goals.

With 9:09 to play, the Rebels were 4-of-16 shooting in the second half.

Ole Miss finished with 17 turnovers that the Hogs cashed in for 15 points.

That was the defense. The offense continues to improve because the shooting is improving, and part of that is taking higher percentage shots, including threes which means an attempt is made when you are squared up and no one is in your face.

For the game, Arkansas made 8 of 20 threes, 5 of 9 in the second half.

Some of that was because the Rebels were unprepared for Morrilton freshman Joseph Pinion, who had been averaging nine minutes and 3.2 points per game during SEC play.

On Saturday, he logged 22 minutes and scored 13 points and hit 3 three-pointers.

When he was in the game, Ole Miss had to cover him with one of its best defenders. That opens the floor for the Razorbacks, who like to get one-on-one with defenders -- it is called isolation basketball -- and beat them to the rim or off the jump.

In no way is that to even hint Musselman should play Pinion more, but when he was on the court Arkansas scored more. The only way any program can compete is as a team, and the Muss Bus was loaded Saturday.

Black, who led all scorers with 17 points, had 8 assists and only 2 turnovers. When he is finding the open man, the Razorbacks prosper.

Ricky Council had a rare off game, but Davonte "Devo" Davis and Walsh picked up some of the slack. Davis scored 16 and hit 3 of 5 three-pointers. He also had five rebounds and four assists. Walsh scored 13.

The intensity was there and confidence was growing. That's what happens when three true freshmen combine for 43 points. It shows their maturity has been growing, even during the adversity of losing.

It was just the kind of game the Razorbacks needed.

For the first time this month, injuries were not on everyone's minds.

Arkansas is 13-6 with 12 games left, 11 in conference and a SEC/Big 12 Challenge game at Baylor on Saturday.

The most important game on its schedule, though, is the next one for the rest of this season.

Next up is LSU in Walton Arena on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Tigers beat the Hogs 60-57 to start conference play, so the Hogs owe them a little pay back.

Saturday, the Razorbacks looked like they are ready for the rigors of the SEC that has four tournament-tough teams and a handful of scrappy teams that can win on any given night.

The Arkansas Razorbacks will define where they fit.

Print Headline: Victory shows Hogs’ confidence is growing

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